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Monday, September 21, 2015

Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project

 Last week I sat down with Chelsea Coston of the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project which provides services to Refugees as well as Asylees.

Through Enactus, Chelsea enriched her college experience by working on a variety of social projects.

Her next step was BCCC RYP, the roots of which go back to 1999 when BCCC was engaging with the ESL community via library space.

The goals of RYP are to provide homework assistance, developing core academic skills, provide a safe space, provide opportunity to practice English, to prevent students from dropping out of high school and transitioning into college or career.

Promoting self expression, self esteem and identity exploration, as well as fostering community and diversity are a part of the RYP mission. RYP also plays the role of providing information to the Baltimore City area regarding refugees.

BCCC RYP is currently exhibiting an art gallery show at Clayworks in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Baltimore. The show is a retrospective of BCCC RYP community arts projects over the last several years. The exhibit will be up through October 10th, 2015. BCCC RYP items can be purchased at Clayworks.

About two years ago in 2013, BCCC RYP started selling their products which are an outgrowth of their arts enterprise initiative. The arts enterprise started as a way to foster meaningful cultural engagement between the community of students with whom they work.

Through collaboration with the Maryland Office of Refugees and Asylees and with the support of the Office of Refugee Resettlement's School Impact Grant, BCCC RYP receives program funding. BCCC RYP shares office space with the International Rescue Committee.

Another collaboration is the Community Art Collaborative Americorps Program; a program created through the efforts of BCCC RYP and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).

Currently Ms. Coston's work as a capacity builder is supported through the Maryland-DC Campus Compact Americorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America) program with the goal of contributing to a program of "deeper, more thorough services," including, "financial literacy program and a targeted college readiness program through a mentoring system. We rely on all the local universities for our volunteers, so we work with Loyola, UMBC, Johns Hopkins Refugee Action Project, Towson University, Goucher and a few high schools including Notre Dame Preparatory and Catonsville High School."

"We are always looking for volunteers. Right now what we need mainly are mentors. These are students who are in college or older; professionals are really needed. They make a commitment of two hours a week to spend with a refugee in high school or middle school. It is basically an adult figure in their life that can be a resource for them. We are also looking for tutors in high school or above at our Moravia site on Wednesday afternoons and our Patterson site, which is a high school, and that is Tuesday afternoon. RYP also has opportunities for unpaid internships including project based internships that can be completed at home. Suggestions for potential partnerships are welcome.

Donated art supplies are also welcome!

BCCC RYP also welcomes one time volunteers to come an support workshops on topics such as careers or finance. You can reach out to Brittany DeNovellis at

In addition to the tutoring mentioned above, BCCC RYP offers a summer school which is an opportunity for high school students to get paid to attend school through Youth Works.

Stay connected:

Facebook   Refugee Youth Project
Twitter      @bmoreryp

Donations can be given through the support tab on BCCC RYP is funded through Baltimore City Community College Foundation so you can mark your donation Refugee Youth Project so that the funds get to BCCC RYP.

The work of BCCC RYP reaches people from 17 Coutries including the following:

 Congo   Sudan    Eritrea    Syria    Burma   Bhutan


Monday, September 7, 2015

MACDC Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations

I first learned about collaborative work spaces when I was living in Brooklyn. I vaguely remember that it was a writer's space so I did a quick google search and came to the Brooklyn Writers Space. I remember thinking about how that might be a good resource for entrepreneurs and would like to eventually create my version of a collaborative work space at some point.

   One of the United Way's partner organizations is the Boston based Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporation. Their website provides information about the Transformative Development Initiative (TDI): Co-Work, which includes grant funding for collaborative groups. 
  I found out about MACDC while attending an event back in April and had a chance to interview President Joe Kriesberg. 

   I like that MACDC's Theory of Change incorporates rural communities into it's focus. What feedback can you share regarding how the unique needs of rural communities are an important part of community development work?
   Community development in rural areas shares the same values and basic elements as community development in urban areas, but it manifest itself differently. Community engagement is harder when people are spread out, and it can be even harder to identify and engage low income people as they are more disperse.

   That said, most rural communities have a strong network of existing leaders that can be engaged and smart CDCs find creative ways to engage new leaders.

   Rural CDCs are more likely to focus on home repair and of course their housing projects are much smaller – something that can be challenging given the affordable housing system’s preference for scale.  Many rural CDCs are highly focused on economic development given the economic struggles that can be found in much of rural America.

   We see our rural members more focused on growing local businesses and supporting entrepreneurs.

   Another difference we find is that rural CDCs are often filling the void created by small local governments with little community development capacity. Rural groups often help their towns to raise and administer grants and help construct or even manage community facilities.

   With all these differences, however, the same three elements remain: community building, improving the built environment, and help people to transform their lives.

   A few years ago I attended a NYSERDAevent (link copied below) and am interested to know; is there a comparable organization or state funded initiative that services Massachusetts?

   I don't think we have an organization like this, but we do have strong energy programs at our state energy office and Mass Development plays some of the same roles with financing projects, I think.

   There is a youth movement calledPower Shift that aims to function as a gathering place for the youth climate movement. I'm interested to know of any similar programs and/or initiatives that you may wish to draw attention to including MACDC's Green Community Development movement.

   CDCs are committed to environmental sustainability as documented in a report we released a couple of years ago.

    MACDC’s big priorities right now are the Community Investment Tax Credit and the Mel King Institute. We may be launching an effort around community development and health later this year.

    How did the relationship with the LISC come about and what kinds of outcomes are MACDC and LISC looking to create through the classes offered at the Mel King Institute? 

      MACDC and LISC have been close partners for 20 years or more – long before I arrived so I’m not sure how it started.  The major outcomes we hope to achieve long term is (1) stronger, better trained CD staff; (2) younger more diverse workforce; (3) more and better partnerships among CDCs and between CDCs and other stakeholders; (4) better community level outcomes due to higher CDC production.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Citizens Planning and Housing Association

I was intrigued when I received an e-mail about a community garden as that is something I would like to support in any way I can. I spoke with Tammy Mayer,the Director of Community Engagement at a Baltimore non profit called the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

I'm happy to give Fifty Co-Op readers a heads up about CPHA initiatives. CPHA, "has been around since 1941 so there is a long history of partnership in a variety of ways." If you visit the CPHA website, you can learn more about what they do including their communications support of the Baltimore Regional Housing Campaign as well as sponsorship of the Activate Your Inner Citizen Greening University.

"In addition to current collaborations Ms.Mayer would like to see community associations working, "more effectively and with greater partnerships with the City Council Members." She hopes the community associations, "take advantage of the free training resources available to them through CPHA."

Considering the needs of a diverse community is an important factor for any business or non profit. Working with people from various backgrounds requires CPHA to practice, "respect, listening, acknowledging other people's opinions as valid and trying to see things from someone else's point of view."